‘Pro’ Social Blog

~Articles and Videos From the Alternative Teaching Behaviorists~

Managing the Stress of Having a Child with Behavior Problems

Does your child’s behavior make you frustrated, angry, resentful and hostile? Does caring for your child cause you to feel exhausted; physically & mentally? Do you feel isolated and alone? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this blog post is for you!

Parenting a child with behavior problems can be hard. Really hard. Some days are better than others, but some days are downright awful. The days when your child swears at you, argues, flat out refuses to do ANYTHING that you ask; when they hit you, kick you, call you names and say things that you would NEVER even think about saying to your own parents – those days can really take a toll. When children are being irrational, parents are often left feeling angry and resentful. You may feel like you’re constantly walking on egg shells, diffusing situations and putting out fires (sometimes literally). This can be a full time job that leaves you feeling worn out and exhausted.

The stress of caring for your child can cause problems in your relationship with your significant other, family and friends. You may feel like you don’t have as much in common with your friends because they have seemingly “perfect” children. You may be embarrassed about your child’s behavior or blame yourself. This can lead to feeling isolated and alone.

Taking care of yourself as a parent is just as important as taking care of your child. When you’re feeling good, it’s easier for you to remain calm and rational. This can make a huge difference in your interactions with your child and your ability to move past difficult interactions.

Here are 5 strategies to help you manage the stress of having a child with difficult behaviors:

1. Try your best to stay calm. It can be hard not to react to your child’s behavior in a negative way, but as you know, that often escalates the situation. The only thing you can control in the situation, is your own behavior. If you’re able to remain calm, it can be contagious. To stay calm – do something! Go for a walk, play with your pet, go for a drive, exercise, organize the pantry; anything you can do to keep yourself busy can be a good distraction. If you’re participating in the program, use Times if your child is being Defiant, Arguing or Yelling.

2. Don’t beat yourself up. If you lose your cool in a situation and you said something you regret, don’t get stuck feeling guilty. Figure out a plan to move forward. Make sure to hold your child accountable for the behaviors that caused you to lose your cool. If you’re in the program, this is why our consequences are so important! Refer to the parent question below for more information.

3. Focus on what goes right. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can be hard to see the positive. Try to make the conscious effort to identify 1 or 2 things that went right during the day; it can be something as simple as your child making it through the school day without a phone call home or that your child used their manners, even if by accident. This can help generate positive emotions towards your child and make you feel more hopeful. Alternative Teaching participants, don’t forget to use game nights and conversations to create the opportunity for positive interactions.

4. Forget the “shoulds”. Don’t worry about what you “should” be doing and do what works. If you want to let your child watch an extra hour of TV so you can have some peace and quiet, do it! It’s okay to make exceptions to the rule, as long as you don’t do it all the time. It can be special treat for your child with the added benefit of giving you a break. This may sound repetitive, but if you’re in the program and want help with this, reach out to your Behavioral Consultant.

5. Find support. If you already have a good support system, use it! If you have friends and family that can help care for your child, have them babysit so you can get a break. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your child with someone else, ask your support system to help lighten your load by grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving your other children places, etc. If you have a significant other, discuss ways you can support each other. If you don’t have a support system, find one. Know that you are not alone. There are many other parents and caregivers who are struggling too. There are local support groups and online communities that can offer connections with other parents. If you’re in the program and feeling alone, reach out to your Behavioral Consultant. We’re here to help you!

Hang in there! Despite what your child may think, you’re an awesome parent!


Ask The Behavioral Consultants…

Parent Question: What do you do when your child says something hurtful?

Ric – I would issue them a consequence.  Specifically, I would ask them to write an apology letter. The apology letter would include three things; 1. what they did wrong, 2. what they could have done differently, and 3. the apology itself. Sometimes when they apologize we don’t think they’re sorry or we want them to show remorse. We won’t always get remorse and you can’t make them be remorseful; but the action of having them write it out, will stick with them longer than just saying it.

Parent Question: How do you keep your cool when your child is testing your patience? 

Anna – Walking away from your child and taking a 10-15 minute break can be life changing. Just like the Time works to reset kids, we can use it to reset ourselves. If you can physically leave the house (or wherever you’re at) that’s even better. Get outside for a walk, run to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee – anything you can do to put some distance between you and your child. If you’re in the program, this is a great time to use the Parent Free Zone. 

Parent Question: What do you do when you say something to your child you later regret? 

Jim – I certainly apologize.  My follow up depends on why I said it.  If it was because of my own irritability and no fault of the child, then I would try to make up for it by doing a nice deed (i.e. go out together for some ice cream, spend time specifically to play something they enjoy, etc.)  However, if my comments were due to their behaviors (not listening, provoking, antagonizing, etc.), then I tell them I’m sorry, but qualify it with something like “these are the reactions you can expect if you do this to people outside of the home” and  “I want to help you remember not to do this by having you do a small consequence and then we can move on”.  If they provoked my response, I apologize but they still do the consequence.  Them doing the consequence is their apology.

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